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COLERIDGE: PHILOSOPHER AND THEOLOGIAN AS LITERARY CRITIC ROY PARK In Coleridge's critical theory, the poetic imagination performs a function analogous in a general way to the function performed by practical reason in the ethical theory of Kant. Although Kant denied the idea of moral freedom as a subject of cognitive knowledge, he went On to show (i) that freedom in the realm of pure reason in its practical role, as distinct from its speculative or theoretical one, could be known, and not merely problematically thought, and (ii) that a being belonging to the world of the senses also belonged to the supersensible order, and that this too was positively known. The supersensible world is known and not merely transcendent as for theoretical purposes. It was, for practical purposes, immanent. For Kant, pure practical reason is not concerned with objects so as to know them cognitively, but with its own faculty for realizing them. As practical, the role of reason was not to furnish an intuition, but a law. The ideas of freedom, God, and immortality are regulative, and not constitutive. In Kant, however, it is practical reason alone which enables man to transcend the world of the senses, giving him a knowledge, albeit only immanential or experiential, of a higher reality or supersensible order. Only in the exercise of our moral duty was Kant prepared to allow a bridge between man as phenomenon and man as noumenon. This "concession " to his regulative theory of ideas does not extend to the poetic imagination. For Coleridge, on the other hand, poetic imagination fulfils a similar role on the aesthetic plane. Imagination in his view is also a bridge between man as phenomenal and man as noumenal being. Like the exertion of the will in the exercise of the categorical imperative, the exertion of the imagination in the creation of symbols realizes the contradiction of the ideal and the real, the noumenal and phenomenal, or as it is expressed more frequently in the context of literature, the universal and the individual, the internal and the external. For Kant, practical reason in our lives incorporates man as phenomenal and noumenal. For Coleridge, imagination through the creation of symbols resolves the same contradiction in the specific form of art. Volume XX%.Vill, Number I, October, 1968 18 ROY PARK The ontological function perfonned by these two concepts in their very different spheres raises a vital issue in an acute way, for as a philosopher , Coleridge was not satisfied with Kant's experiential or immanential "compromise." J. D. Boulger has convincingly shown that, in his adaptation of Kant's concept of practical reaSOn in his development of a higher reason, Coleridge radically altered that concept in accordance with his own constitutive views.' The knowledge of freedom he required was an intuitive knowledge, and not a law. Practical reaSOn in his hands therefore emerges as an escape from the dualistic impasse confronting him in Kant's denial of the possibility of a science of metaphysics. The ideas of freedom, God, and immortality are constitutive and not regulative. The problem therefore in relation to his conception of the role of poetic imagination is obvious: if the function perfonned by poetic imagination in Coleridge's critical theory is analogous to that of practical reaSOn in Kant's ethical theory, and furthermore, if Coleridge as a philosopher evinces a radical dissatisfaction with Kant's experiential account in favour of a constitutive rendering, is it not likely that some indication, however slight, will be found in Coleridge's view of the function of the poetic imagination of a similar movement in the direction of a constitutive interpretation? Does the development of his own theory of imagination ever suggest that art becomes d,e expression of the artist's Own intuitive insight into ideas as real? His later poetry would certainly suggest some such viewpoint, but the question at issue now is whether, in his development of a theory of the imagination, he evinces what Professor Coburn tenns his "intention to reconcile philosophy and poetry."2 He made, of course, no detailed application of his mature philosophical inSights to his aesthetic theory, but in view of many of his later comments...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 17-33
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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